Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated?

Whether your skin is feeling tight or taut on a long flight, in the middle of winter, or year-round, learn what might be causing your skin to feel dry and how you can care for it. If your skin feels uncomfortable, tight, or taut, you may assume that your skin is dry. Before you apply a heavy cream or begin a new skincare routine for dry skin, learn how to tell whether your skin is dry or if it might actually be dehydrated.

What is the Difference Between Dry and Dehydrated Skin?

While dry skin and dehydrated skin share many similar characteristics like rough texture and dry fine lines, they are very different. Dry skin refers to skin lacking in oil while dehydrated skin is actually low in water. While dehydrated skin is a condition that can occur to any skin type, dry skin is a skin type—like normal, combination, or oily skin.

What is Dehydrated Skin?

Dehydrated skin is a condition that can happen to any skin type and refers to skin that is losing more water than it is taking in. A healthy skin barrier helps skin retain water and an efficient stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin), should have 10% to 15% of water. When that percentage drops below 10%, skin becomes dehydrated. To compensate for this, water may move up to the surface which can create an imbalance of moisture within the skin.

What is Dry Skin?

Dry skin is a skin type that produces less sebum (or oil) than normal or oily skin. There are a number of factors that could cause your skin type to change and become drier. Harsh conditions, extreme temperatures, aging and genetics can all cause oil to become depleted in skin.

Can Oily Skin be Dehydrated?

Dehydration affects all skin types – even oily skin. If you are constantly battling shine it may not seem like your skin is dehydrated but it is possible for skin to have high oil levels even while it is lacking in water. Skin may even become extra oily in dehydrated skin as low moisture levels can even cause skin to produce excess oil.

What Causes Dry and Dehydrated Skin?

While some causes of dry and dehydrated skin are unavoidable, others can be influenced by your environment and lifestyle. Dehydrated skin may even cause dry skin as water depletion can also affect skin’s oil levels. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Aging
  • Extreme Cold & Heat
  • Air Conditioning & Indoor Heating
  • Low Moisture Levels in the Air
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Smoking & Environmental Pollutants
  • UV Exposure

What are Common Characteristics of Dry and Dehydrated Skin?

While you already know the main signs of dry skin, there are a range of characteristics that can accompany these skin conditions. Common signs of dry and dehydrated skin include:

  • Feeling Tight or Taut
  • Looking Dull or Tired
  • Dry Fine Lines
  • Rough Skin Texture
  • Flaking and Scaling
  • Cracked Skin
  • Visible Redness

How Can You Tell if Your Skin is Dry or Dehydrated?

Since it can be hard to tell if your skin is dry or dehydrated, the best way is to consult with an expert. At Kiehl’s, our skincare experts can help determine your skin’s hydration levels and recommend formulas to balance your skin’s moisture levels.

How Do You Care for Dry or Dehydrated Skin?

In addition to your skincare routine, it is important to look at any other potential causes in your lifestyle that may be affecting your skin. Eating nutritiously, getting adequate sleep, and drinking water are all ways to care for your skin on a daily basis.

What are the Best Products for Dry and Dehydrated Skin?

For both dry and dehydrated skin, start with a low-foaming, gentle cleanser and an alcohol-free toner to help cleanse and refresh. A daily facial moisturizer is a must. Dry skin types may want extra moisture from a thick, oil-rich cream or facial balm while a hydrating serum may be best for dehydrated skin. If you experience dry skin from head to toe, nourish your body with a rich body moisturizer or body oil. Regardless of your skin type, daily sunscreen is a essential to care for and protect skin from UV rays which can damage skin’s barrier.